Telomerase in differentiated thyroid cancer: promoter mutations, expression and localization

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2015 Jan 5;399:288-95. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2014.10.019. Epub 2014 Oct 27.


Telomerase-reverse-transcriptase (TERT) promoter mutations have been recently described in tumors. In the present large series, TERT mutations were found in 12% of papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs) and in 14% of follicular thyroid cancers (FTCs), and were found to significantly correlate with older age at diagnosis and poorer outcome. Interestingly, the prognostic value of TERT mutations resulted to be significantly stronger than that of BRAF(V600E). Moreover, the outcome was not different among tumors with isolated TERT mutation and those with coexistent mutations (TERT/BRAF in PTCs or TERT/RAS in FTCs). TERT rs2853669 polymorphism was found in 44.4% of tumors. At WB, TERT was significantly more expressed in tumors than in normal samples, being the highest levels of expression recorded in TERT mutated cases. At IHC, in tumors and in metastatic lymph-nodes TERT staining was significantly higher in the cytoplasm than in the nucleus, whereas in normal tissue the degree of staining did not differ in the two cellular compartments. In conclusion, TERT mutations were shown to strongly correlate with a poorer outcome in differentiated thyroid tumors, and neither BRAF nor RAS mutation were found to confer an additional effect in the disease persistence. TERT protein was found to be more expressed in neoplastic than in normal tissues, and to display a different cellular localization, suggesting that it could contribute to thyroid cancer progression by mechanisms taking place in the cytoplasm.

Keywords: BRAF; Epidemiology; Genomics; Outcome; RAS; TERT.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus* / enzymology
  • Cell Nucleus* / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus* / pathology
  • Cytoplasm* / enzymology
  • Cytoplasm* / genetics
  • Cytoplasm* / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Mutation*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Telomerase / blood
  • Telomerase / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / enzymology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms* / pathology


  • TERT protein, human
  • Telomerase